The Philippine Star
A disease that can be prevented
Within less than a week earlier this month, the Department of Health recorded eight deaths attributed to a single affliction: leptospirosis. The potentially deadly bacterial disease can be easily treated if detected early, but proper diagnosis and treatment often come too late.
Since the start of the year until June 9, the Department of Health recorded 1,030 leptospirosis cases nationwide, with 99 leading to death. DOH officials warn that the number continues to rise as the monsoons and typhoons spawn floods that carry urine from infected animals, typically rodents, dogs and pigs. When this enters open wounds or cuts, leptospirosis can develop. Because the symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses, and in some cases there are no symptoms at all, misdiagnosis is common and death can come swiftly.
Left untreated, leptospirosis can lead to respiratory diseases, liver failure, kidney damage, meningitis and death. DOH officials reported noticing a spike in the cases during floods, indicating the lack of awareness and precautions against the disease in many communities. The recent increase in cases can indicate two things: either public awareness of the disease is improving and more people are seeking early treatment, or else there is a real surge in leptospirosis infection as the rainy season goes into full swing.
The National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City has been so swamped by patients that even its gymnasium has been converted into an improvised public ward. A special lane dedicated to leptospirosis patients has been set up. Nine of the leptospirosis fatalities had been attended to at the NKTI; hospital officials stressed that the cases were already in an advanced stage when brought to the institute.
With easy and affordable precautions, this disease can be prevented from spreading and killing patients. Wearing rubber boots and other waterproof apparel during downpours and floods can go a long way in disease prevention. Raising awareness of the disease, especially among children and residents in flood-prone areas, can save lives. Timely treatment is critical, so communities must be made aware of what to watch out for and the importance of timely and accurate diagnosis. This is a disease that can be prevented.